Rostraver landfill fined $160,000 for bad odors
The Tervita landfill in Rostraver Township has been ordered to pay a six-figure fine for repeatedly failing to control foul odors, according the state Department of Environmental Protection.
A consent order and agreement — signed by both DEP and Tervita officials Wednesday — orders the company to pay $160,000 to the state's Solid Waste Abatement Fund. It also mandates the 270-acre landfill provide monthly progress reports on its efforts to maintain odor control.
Neighboring residents have been complaining for nearly two years about a stench that has permeated their homes and properties - an odor the DEP has since confirmed through off site inspections and air testing.
The smell, often compared to rotten eggs or a decomposing animal, is caused by odorless methane gas from underground refuse that combines with Methyl mercaptan and escapes from the landfill and into the air.
Approximately 50 local residents filed a class-action lawsuit in July against Tervita, seeking unspecified damages for the stench affecting their property values and quality of life. The lawsuit is still pending in Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court.
A handful of residents have repeatedly asked the Rostraver Township Board of Commissioners to help cease the stench.
In August, the board approved a resolution asking DEP to deny Tervita's permit renewal for the landfill.
The permit, which expires in July, is still under review by DEP.
Board chairman Pat Egros said he learned about the consent order on Saturday and was pleased with the results.
“One hundred and sixty thousand bucks is significant. … I haven't spoken with any of the other commissioners this weekend, but I don't think anyone will be disappointed by this,” Egros said.
“I truly think the township played a large part to motivate the DEP to act and move things forward.”
Egros said he's sent invitations to DEP officials and elected officials to attend the commissioners agenda meeting in April to address residents' concerns about potential health hazards caused by the landfill.
DEP maintains the landfill committed numerous violations, including emitting combustible gas levels that exceeded state law, on “numerous dates” between April 1, 2012, and March 31, 2013.
According to the consent order, DEP issued a notice of violation to landfill operators on the following dates: Aug. 14, 2012 (offsite odors detected on Lenity School Road, Patton Road and Maria Drive), Feb. 27, 2013 (failure to control and minimize offsite odors), and Dec. 5, 2013 (constructing portions of the landfill in violation of the landfill's permit).
DEP maintains that between August 2012 and March 2013, Tervita violated state law by failing to minimize and control odors, perform frequent inspections to check whether its odor-control methods were working and correct deficiencies that were discovered during subsequent inspections.
Since March of last year, according to Tervita oficials, the landfill has undergone efforts to control offsite odor, including the installation of 16 vertical gas extraction wells, placement of soil cover over problem areas and improvements to a system that collects methane gas and pipes it into an on-site flare.
A key provision of the consent order mandates that the landfill provide DEP with a written progress report every month. The report must specify any corrective actions being performed onsite, including unsuccessful ones, to reduce or eliminate odors.
Failure to comply with the order could result in a $1,000-per-day penalty.
In addition, if DEP workers document offsite odors for more than 15 minutes, the landfill will be ordered to pay a civil penalty of $5,000.
The latter stipulation does not include any construction work that might expose old refuse. However, the landfill is to notify DEP in advance if any such work is being planned.
Tervita LLC is based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with U.S. operations based in Houston, Texas.
Vice president Michael S. Wood, who signed the DEP consent order, could not be reached for comment Sunday.
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2635.